Real Madrid and Barcelona: let the battle commence
Nothing beats the thrill of watching El Clasico, and this week we get the bonus of two games between these footballing giants. The annual Spanish Super Cup is the curtain raiser for La Liga. Tonight's first leg will be played in Barcelona's Camp Nou before the teams reconvene in Madrid for the second round on Wednesday.
So what can we expect from the games?
UEFA Champions league and La Liga champions Real Madrid look to assert their domination over the current Spanish Super Cup (Copa Del Rey) champions FC Barcelona. Back from Macedonia, after being crowned champions of the UEFA Super cup against Manchester United, “Los Blancos” take on a Neymar-less Barcelona who are yet to replace the Brazilian phenomenon. On the other hand, the “Blaugranas” 12-time Spanish Super Cup champions look to defy all odds by retaining their title after beating Sevilla in last year’s edition, and will be looking to put an end to Real Madrid’s title-winning streak.
El Clasico never seems to disappoint. With Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi on either end of the pitch, the game is one of the most viewed annual events on the planet. Real Madrid and Barcelona are the two most followed teams in the world, and to many Spaniards the battle goes beyond the football pitch. For these fans it represents politics in Spain, with Real Madrid representing Spanish nationalism and Barcelona's die-hards favouring Catalan Independence.
But back to the game itself, what makes this El Clasico so special is the Super Cup’s two-leg system. With a game at each ground, Barcelona will be aiming to be crowned champions on their main rivals’ home turf, while Real Madrid will be looking forward to celebrating with their fans at the Bernabeu.These two will be facing each other in a Super Cup final for the first time in five years; the last being in 2012 when Real Madrid were crowned champions.
Tonight's game might wittness some changes to the line-ups that we're used to. With Mateo Kovacic expected to be in the Real starting eleven, to replace suspended Luka Modric, Zidane might be looking to rotate his left backs by resting Marcelo and giving new comer Theo Hernandez a chance to impress in his El Clasico debut. Cristiano Ronaldo, who was rested in the European Super Cup, is expected to lead the line along with Karim Benzema in the striking positions, while out-of-form Gareth Bale is expected to be replaced with in-form Isco. On the other side, Barcelona will be playing their first official game since the sale of Neymar, with Gerard Deulofeu expected to start in his first official game since his return to the Camp Nou after long loan spells at the Everton and AC Milan, to complete Barcelona's attacking trio alongside Messi and Luis Suárez.
Although Andrés Iniesta had not trained with the team last week, he is expected to start in midfield alongside Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitić. The only position in contention will be the right back position, with newcomer Nélson Semedo threatening the position of Aleix Vidal, who has just returned from a long injury. Vidal is expected to start, however, after good performances in pre-season games.
Possible line-ups :
Barcelona - Ter Stegen, Vidal, Pique, Umtiti, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic, Delofeu, Suarez, Messi
Real Madrid - Navas, Theo/Marcelo, Ramos, Varane, Carvajal, Casemiro, Kroos, Kovacic, Isco, Benzema, Ronaldo
Here's what happened in the last 'Super El Clasico' in 2012
Many names have changed since then, but will a weakened Barcelona side be able to put the giants to sleep and go on to be crowned champions at the Santiago Bernabeu? It's going to be a great week of football where we get to find out.